One week ago today, I found myself in a place I never imagined I’d ever be-the White House. Well, not exactly. Specifically, I was sitting in an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building-the former State, War, and Navy Building-right next to the White House. I had been invited, along with American Gut co-founder and my boss Rob Knight and American Gut collaborator Pieter Dorrestein, to attend the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s unveiling of the National Microbiome Initiative.
The Initiative was the culmination of a few years’ long journey to get the federal government behind microbiome research-an effort that Rob Knight played an important part of and that seemingly culminated with the call for a unified microbiome initiative, published in Science by Knight and other leaders in the field. The hard work paid off-the White House has answered our call, and in a big way.
A few months ago, the White House issued a call for Microbiome Science Champions-a call that was answered by more than 100 external groups-including myself on behalf of the American Gut Project, and Rob on behalf of the new Center for Microbiome Innovation at UCSD. A few months after submitting descriptions of work being done through American Gut and the Center, Rob and I received our invitations.
At the event, we learned that Federal agencies will be investing over $121 million in microbiome research, with the goals to support interdisciplinary research, facilitate the development of platform technologies, and expand the microbiome workforce. Several organizations have already pledged significant funding, including UCSD, with a contribution of $12 million through the Center for Microbiome Innovation. Everyone at the event was also treated to several panels lead by experts in the field as well as Federal agencies. The excitement and energy in the room was tangible. American Gut collaborator Jack Gilbert was invited to give a flash talk about citizen science, and he highlighted the work being done through American Gut. The American Gut Project has arrived at the White House, ladies and gentlemen! To all of our participants-look what you’ve made possible!
As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think about the future. 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now, when we see the results of all of our hard work, I will think back on Friday, May 13th, 2016 and remember how it all began, and I’ll remember that I was witness to a very special piece of history that is going to change our field. Perhaps Congresswoman Louise Slaughter said it best: “It’s going to be like splitting the atom when we get all of this done.”
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter discusses the significance of the NMI.
Rob Knight speaks on a technology panel.
Jack Gilbert discusses American Gut as an example of the power of microbiome citizen science.
Read the White House National Microbiome Initiative Fact Sheet
For more news pieces see:
White House Goes with Gut, Launching Microbiome Initiative
White House Launches the National Microbiome Initiative
White House Taps UCSD for Microbiome Research
San Diego Scientists Join New National Microbiome
White House launches microbiome initiative
White House Invites UCSD Scientists to Discuss Microbiome
UC San Diego Key Participant in White House Initative